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June 2008, vol 4 no 2

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Ian Lomas

 

Slightly Foxed

Mackerel sky
jackdaw swirling,
the harsh call.

On the far side of the valley, within sight of home, I wander around Highlee Knowl, towards sundown. An old fence of 4-inch wire squares runs along beside the rubble of a primitive dry-stone wall. I follow the line, eyes keenly spotting trails where animals have found gaps to pass underneath. Hearing a slight crunch, I raise my gaze to bushes nearby, momentarily ensnared. Nothing moves and I dismiss the sound, glancing back to the fence where I have become aware of something more critical.

A fleeting fly
elaborates
the spider's work.

Advancing swiftly, I make out the body shape of a fox hanging down head first from the top of the fence. One back leg is caught through the top two wires, which have twisted over tightly together. She must have tried to get over the top, made a misjudgement and then slowly starved to death. I wondered about her life. Did she have cubs? Was she taking food to them? Were they starving too, or already dead?

I was up on Highlee again one afternoon in mid-winter. Despite the season it was a pleasant day, the low winter sun warming the southwest facing slopes. I rounded the contours and on seeing the fence, recalled the vixen's fate. Arriving at the spot, I could see just a solitary tibia in the twisted wire. Raking the long grass with a dead branch, I searched for her remains. In disbelief, I scoured down to the soil before I found the rest of her bones. I was drawn to pick up the skull, with a full set of strong teeth.

Unsure what to do with the relic when I reached home, I placed it outside the back door on the side of a trough of black bamboo. And there it remained for a couple of weeks as the weather turned colder.

Frosted view
long faces
scowling back.

Our two cats were behaving strangely. Although there was nearly an inch of snowfall on the ground outside, this did not usually put them off venturing outside - if only briefly. Of late they would sit and stare through the cat flap, walk around momentarily and then return uneasily. After a while I lost my patience and opened the door for the dim-witted creatures.

On my doorstep
stone cold
fox spirit.

Lying on its side, facing west was the body of a fox, nose to nose with the skull of the other. It had clearly been suffering badly with mange. There was fur on its head, forelegs and brush; the rest of it was naked and covered in sores. Frozen to death.

Blanket of leaves
taking care,
gone to earth.

I picked him up by two paws and carried him along the path behind our house and into Fiddle Wood. I laid him to rest under beech trees, and covered him over with leaves.

Just over a year passed, and I went back twice to try to find the gravesite. I spent half an hour each time, ploughing the beech mast with a branch, but I could not find any evidence of a fox.

Black silt puddle
in the night
a wood mouse passed by.

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